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HAFB expansion likely

$34 million proposed in bill; software division to benefit

Hill Air Force Base is in expansion mode.

With worries of base closure again behind them, base officials are planning for the future.

The Utah congressional delegation is doing its part to fuel the expansion: Sens. Bob Bennett and Orrin Hatch, both R-Utah, secured $34 million for Hill in the Senate's military appropriations bill.

That money will be used to expand the base's first-class Software Engineering Division and to address concerns about aircraft-battle damage-repair training and storage as the F/A-22 fighter jet comes online.

"Utah and Hill Air Force Base have done very well today with this bill," Hatch said. "It goes to show the Defense Department recognizes the superior level of work performed by Utah's military personnel."

In total, Utah's take of the military appropriations pot came out to $62.2, with more than half of that funding going to Hill.

The bill will now move to conference committee with the House, where differences between the two military appropriations bills will be reconciled.

Hill's software-support facility will nearly double in size with an expected $19.5 million. At the facility, workers test and maintain software and related hardware for weapons systems on the Air Force's F-16, B-1B, B-52, C-17, A-10, Minuteman and Peacekeeper missiles.

"The work performed at this HAFB facility is essential to ensuring the readiness of the nation's military weapons systems," Bennett said. "These funds will provide for necessary expansion of a facility which has reached its capacity."

The senators from Utah also secured $9.8 million to clear space on the base for future expansion. Hill plans on consolidating 43 Minuteman III missile igloos into three new facilities, which will free up explosives-clear-zone land that will be used for new missions and additional workload. This money will only pay for two of those new facilities.

An additional $4.6 million will fund a facility to train personnel on repairing and maintaining the F/A-22 fighter jet.

Hill pumps $2.8 billion into the state every year, and is the Beehive State's largest em- ployer with nearly 24,000 workers.

Utah's economic engine survived the base-closure process with just six lost jobs.

Hill officials worried the base could lose as many as 5,000 jobs during the BRAC process, said Vickie McCall, president of the Utah Defense Alliance.

The bill also secured $25 million for a new runway at Dugway Proving Ground. Hill pilots will use the new runway as an emergency landing field.

Camp Williams is also slated to receive $3.3 million to construct a new readiness center that will house the new 144th Army Field Evacuation Hospital Unit.